3 tips for effective online fundraising in 2016


Nonprofits can’t do the great work they do without the necessary resources – and by resources, we mean donations.

Thanks to the internet and social media, there’s an unprecedented level of opportunity for great causes to make their voices heard and attract those much needed $$. But the digital space is so crowded that it can be extremely difficult to stand out against all the noise.

At the heart of it all, however, good fundraising is still all about good marketing and great storytelling. To attract the right donors, nonprofits must tell a story about why their cause matters, why people should get involved, and how their contribution makes a real impact. So here are three simple ways nonprofits can do more effective online fundraising, exceed donation goals, and focus more on the things that truly matter in 2016.



1. Engage “in the moment"

Think mobile. People are constantly on their phones – the average person checks their mobile device 150 times a day! So it’s critical that you aim your online fundraising campaigns at that mobile-first audience. Consider implementing a “Text to Donate” campaign to provide instant gratification and make it effortless for individuals to contribute to your organization.



Evoke emotion. Always craft your campaigns with an eye toward evoking an emotional response from your audience. You’re passionate about your cause, so give them a reason to be, too, by adding a human element to your work – whether that’s from photographs, quotes, or videos of the types of projects your cause supports.

Keep it simple. One of the biggest challenges facing digital marketers is the fact that your audience is not a captive one – it’s incredibly difficult to keep someone’s attention long enough for them to finish a blog post, let alone to make it through the donation process. So be clear, concise and get to the point fast.



2. Maintain authenticity

Pick the right channels. Use the channels where your target audience naturally would be. If it makes sense for your organization to be on SnapChat and Periscope, great! But if not, don’t force it just for the sake of keeping up with the latest trends.

Don’t lose sight of your cause. We'd all love to create the next ALS “Ice Bucket Challenge,” but trying to go viral can muddle your message and waste valuable resources. Raising awareness is a valiant goal, but for the purpose of fundraising, it’s more important for you to reach the right people than to reach ALL the people.

Be transparent. Most people (especially Millennials) know they’re being marketed to – in fact, they expect you to market to them. Manage those expectations by making your marketing message as transparent as possible. If you want to raise money, simply tell people that instead of masking your fundraising efforts as something else entirely.



3. Think long-term

Play the long game. The holiday season and special occasions like “Giving Tuesday” are great, but you need to think beyond those moments to reach your long-term goals. Strategize ways to fill in the gaps between traditionally high-giving times and the low points of your calendar. 

Consider indirect giving. One interesting fundraising shift during the digital age has been the idea of indirect giving – or rather, when donations filter through an individual’s relationship to the donors rather than the cause itself. People support individuals they know: Think of all the KickStarter and IndieGoGo campaigns you’ve seen on your social feeds. So find ways to spread your message through individual people rather than just through the voice of your organization.

Build advocates. A great way to do that is to cultivate a group of highly-involved advocates who are passionate about the cause you support. They’ll help market for you and bring more people into the fold through their own personal networks.




About the Author

McKenzie Gregory is a senior content manager on Emma’s marketing team. A Nashville native, she can be found covering all things email on the Emma blog, debating hyphenation rules, and watching obscene amounts of Netflix without a trace of shame.

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